Illinois Medical Malpractice Not Guilty Verdict Reviewed For Potential Prejudicial Comments- Verdict Affirmed in Pavnica v. Edwin Veguilla, et al.

An Illinois Appellate Court reviewed an Illinois medical malpractice case to determine whether references to the defendant doctors’ military service had prejudiced the jury against the plaintiff and contributed to its not guilty verdict. After reviewing the facts of the case, the court held that the comments had not prejudiced the jury and were “harmless”. Pavnica v. Edwin Veguilla, et al., No. 3-09-0065.

The plaintiff’s medical malpractice complaint alleged that Dr. Veguilla, an emergency room physician, had failed to prescribe anaerobic antibiotics when the plaintiff presented to the ER with an injured toe. The plaintiff’s medical history was complicated by a long history of diabetes and immunosuppressive medications he was taking after receiving a kidney and pancreas transplant. All diabetic patients realize the importance of checking your feet on a regular basis for potential cuts and injury as diabetic patients can easily develop diseases in their feet that could lead to gangrene.

In Pavnica, the potential for gangrene became a reality when he was diagnosed with a gangrenous infection that required an amputation of his toes and an additional amputation of a portion of his forefoot to prevent further spreading. According to the plaintiff’s theory of emergency room negligence, Dr. Veguilla and his colleagues should have prescribed widespread antibiotics instead of just an oral antibiotic. Plaintiff’s expert stated that had the emergency room doctors done this then the plaintiff most likely would not have lost any portion of his foot or toes.

Based on the not guilty medical malpractice jury verdict the jury did not agree with the plaintiff’s experts or their arguments. On appeal the plaintiff argued that the reason the jury did not find against the defendant doctors was because it was prejudiced by testimony Veguilla made regarding his past military service. The plaintiff’s appeal stated that this testimony evoked “strong views of patriotism for our troops”, thereby prejudicing the jury against the plaintiff. The basis of the plaintiff’s appeal was that the trial court had erroneously ruled on its motion in limine to keep comments regarding past military service out of the trial.

However, the appellate court found that comments regarding the emergency room doctor’s military service were relevant to his past medical experience and provided the jurors with some additional background on the defendants. Furthermore, the court held that any errors in allowing the testimony were harmless and did not influence the eventual jury verdict. In order for a trial court to overturn a jury’s verdict and order a retrial there needs to be overwhelming evidence that the jury was prejudiced by an error on behalf of the trial court, which was not found in the present case. Therefore, the jury verdict in favor of the defense stands.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling Illinois medical malpractice lawsuits for over 30 years, serving those areas in and around Cook County, including Park Ridge, Downers Grove, Naperville, and Chicago.

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